In Tortola, we hit our first snag. I’d planned to take Smith’s ferry to Virgin Gorda, departing at 8:50 and returning at 3PM. We’d reserved a rental car on VG (Mahogany Rentals), feeling the 5+ hours on the island would give us time to see Gorda’s Peak, the Copper Mines and the Baths.
BEWARE: DO NOT rely on Smith’s Ferry schedule when planning your day! ONLY look at Speedy’s schedule and assume you’ll be using that service. Smith’s decided not to go to VG the day we were in port. They were OPEN and offering ferries to OTHER islands. They provided no explanation as to why they’d decided to avoid Virgin Gorda that day. (Port officials on VG indicated they were NOT reliable. Unfortunately that information was too late to help us!)
Speedy had a 9AM ferry, so our trip over wasn’t significantly impacted. But their return schedule offered a ferry at either 1PM or 4:30PM. Since we had to be on the ship by 5PM, the 4:30 seemed just TOO close for comfort. We ended up spending $60 to rent a car to go ONLY to the Baths – which probably would have cost us about $15 by taxi! We had a lovely time snorkeling at the Baths, but the much too expensive and abbreviated day was disappointing.
We rented an 11’ Boston Whaler from Boathouse Boat Rentals (formerly Turtles) and spent the day sightseeing from the water. The boat came complete with fishing gear, a cooler for drinks and a map.
I’d paid the deposit back in December. The owner somehow neglected to transfer my reservation to his new 2014 calendar when January rolled around. We arrived at the boat rental office to find it empty. A friendly local woman offered her cell phone to call the proprietor, who came out to meet us. He offered us a discounted price, given our late start, but once again we were unable to fit in everything we planned. We boated over to Marigot, where we tied up the boat to do some sight-seeing by foot and had crepes at a waterfront French restaurant. We then boated around the harbor for some unsuccessful fishing before returning to the rental office. We had hoped to also visit Cupecoy Beach, but ran out of time.
We toured the island with Royston, along with several passengers from our roll call. Royston tours in a van without windows, which provides WONDERFUL photo opportunities! The breeze was wonderful and we never felt like we needed air conditioning. We visited Wingfield Plantation, a former sugar and rum processing location associated with Christopher Jefferson - an ancestor of President Thomas Jefferson. The next stop was Romney Manor and the Caribelle Batik. I’d been there on a prior visit. What a lovely location! The demonstration of the dying process was brief and interesting. From there it was on to the Brimstone Fort. On the way to the Black Rocks, Royston stopped at a sugar cane field and cut down several stalks. He explained that he feeds it to the donkeys near the Black Rocks. When they saw his van approaching, they immediately started to bray – knowing sugar cane was coming! We then drove to Timothy Hill, where the views were incredible. Royston picked us up some delicious BBQ chicken from a local street vendor, which we ate at a nearly deserted beach. We were back at the pier around 3:45 for our 5PM all-aboard. What a great day! Royston was a great host and guide.
We did the Roseau Valley Tour with Levi from Bumpiing Tours. I’d done this tour in 2010, on a cruise with my daughter. We were both so taken with Levi, that I didn’t give my boyfriend a chance to choose from any excursions NOT offered by Bumpiing Tours! He chose the Roseau Valley Tour and I had no problem repeating the experience!
Our first stop was Champagne Beach for snorkeling. Levi was kind enough to carry people’s shoes back to the beach, so we didn’t have to cross the rocky beach barefoot to put on our flippers. Snorkeling was excellent – even better than at the Baths!
Next stop was Titou Gorge. Levi mentioned that he never WALKS into the cold water, but prefers to JUMP from the top of the ridge. That constituted about a 30 foot drop through a crevice between the stone-faced walls that was only about 6- or 8-feet wide. Two of us decided to follow suit and took the plunge. It was an enormous thrill! At 54-years-old, I’ll likely never do something like that again, but what a memory…what an adventure!
Next stop was Trafalgar Falls, followed by a walk out to the hot mineral springs. The falls are amazing and the hot springs felt great after the cold water at the gorge!
Levi provided a tour to other points of interests before returning us to the ship around 3:15. We spent some time shopping in the little local marketplace (I prefer to buy my souvenirs at these less developed islands, where the residents really rely on the tourist industry), before boarding the ship.
In Barbados we opted for the only ship-sponsored excursion on our cruise, Harrison Caves. I’d visited Hato Caves in Curacao on a previous cruise and thoroughly enjoyed it. Underground caverns are such a departure from other cruise-ship excursions. I researched doing the caves on our own, but the cost of the taxi was high and I read that the caves give preference to tour groups. If you arrive individually, you’ll likely have to wait. So we booked through the ship. The caves are interesting and beautiful and a fun change of pace for a Caribbean vacation.